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State Fair apple pie winner adds dose of moonshine for competitive edge

Staff Reports • Updated Oct 6, 2015 at 11:32 PM

The State Fair’s best apple pie baker readily admits, although somewhat sheepishly so, that she may have gotten an edge over other contestants in the contest by spiking her recipe with a dose, a tablespoon, of Tennessee moonshine. 

Defending the uniqueness of her special ingredient she hinted it was the first time she had used moonshine in an apple pie filling and suggested, “Why not? It’s legal.”

Williams said the secret to making delicious food is creating the perfect recipe, which she says “takes a lot of practice, and pouring yourself into it.

“This year’s apple pie (the Tennessee State Fair winner) I felt, was the perfect combination of apples, crust and yummy caramel sauce,” she offered

Williams contends the secret to a delicious crust is “not working the dough too much. It must be handled as little as possible. This makes the crust flaky and gives it a wonderful texture. It’s a bit harder than using a store bought crust, but really makes the difference.”

The teacher and mother of three said she had an appreciation for baking while growing up but didn’t really fall in love with the art until she was a freshman at Harding University in Searcy, Ark.

“I wish I could explain just how special baking is to me. When I was growing up, I would come home to a homemade meal every day. My mom loved cooking and baking, and we usually had some sort of homemade yummy cookies on the counter for our after-school snack,” Williams said noting though that it wasn’t until she was at Harding that she “met her baking mentor,” her husband’s grandmother, Ruth Williams, who lived on a farm in Bradford, Ark. not far from Searcy.

She said she and her husband, Marty, would go and visit “Granny” on the weekends, adding, “I had never met anyone quite like her. She was your classic country girl. She grew up poor, had a garden and did things the old-fashioned way. She made quilts, clothes, canned fruits and vegetables, and lived very simply – but happily.

“Her kindness was contagious and so was her cooking.”

Williams, who has competed in the State Fair apple pie contest for three consecutive years, said her grandmother-in-law first got her attention with the bread she would bake.

“Every Sunday she would get up hours before us and make-up rolls to rise while we were at church. When I would go into the kitchen, I was always amazed by the pans of rolls, multiple pans, all about the kitchen. My baking interest was sparked.”

She credited her husband’s grandmother for teaching her so many things about baking including “my love of baking.”

Williams said “Granny” taught her first how to make rolls stressing in lesson after lesson the importance of getting the dough just right. She said there was never a recipe and the “rolls were always crafted by using a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and they were delicious.”

She said from rolls her lessons in baking advanced to pies, pastries, cakes, cinnamon rolls and other items.  

She remembered that “Granny” would put food in the back of her car and take it to church. Afterwards, she said she would open the trunk and hand out food to whomever she thought might enjoy it.

“This is when I saw that baking is a gift and can be used to bless others. God gives us all talents, and she used hers to bless others with food. I wanted to be like that.”

She and her husband, high school sweethearts at Goodpasture in Madison, have been married for 28 years. Their children are Dustin, 25, a graduate of Baylor University now working at John Hopkins; Denver, 22, a senior at Middle Tennessee State University, and Dorrie, 18, a freshman at Lipscomb.

Williams, who graduated from MTSU after beginning college at Harding, taught school in Sumner County at Lakeside Park and Nannie Berry and up until this year taught her own children at home. This is the first year she has not be teaching.

She’s proud that all three of her children like to cook, although Dustin is “my baker,” she said pointing out that he won two second place ribbons himself at the State Fair this year, his first year to enter the Fair’s baking contests.

“We are no strangers to the State Fair. My daughter is an artist and we began entering her art about six years ago. She has won multiple ribbons, including best of show and peoples choice awards. My husband has entered vegetables from our garden for several years, and has also won ribbons for bell peppers, banana peppers, and cayenne peppers,” she said.

Williams explained she spends most her time being a wife, mom, and teacher but said she also likes drawing, painting, and baking and has recently begun learning about photography.

Her first love continues to be making bread and she has the awards to prove it. At this year’s State Fair she captured first place awards for yeast rolls, zucchini bread and chocolate zucchini cake. Last year she won best of show for cornbread, as well as several other first place ribbons - one being for a muffin that she created and named for her Dad, who passed away last year.

The prize-winning baker contends that baking is “a big part” of whom she is.

“I believe God has given me a talent, and I love to use it to bless others.”

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